What Homophobia Is & Is Not
Jim McCrea's letter (May) defends the word "homophobia." The word does have a legitimate meaning, but it is almost never used in the proper sense. A phobia is by definition an irrational or excessive fear. Claustrophobia is an irrational fear of enclosed spaces. Ailurophobia is an irrational fear of cats, and, as a friend of mine once observed, tooraloorailurophobia is an irrational fear of Irish cats.
Following that pattern, homophobia is an irrational fear of homosexuals or of homosexuality. There undoubtedly are some people who are homophobic in this proper sense of the word. However, today "homophobia" is used almost exclusively as a smear word to try to discredit and intimidate those who affirm the immorality of homosexual intercourse and oppose the political agenda of militant homosexuals. If our statements can be misconstrued as being the result of a "phobia," an irrational fear, then there is no need to take them seriously or to examine and answer our arguments.
Martin W. Helgesen
Malverne, New York
Books Worth Reading
Thank you for Archbishop John R. Quinn's reconsideration of John Henry Newman's An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (May), and, more generally, for your "Vital Works Reconsidered" series, of which Quinn's article is a part. John Erskine said there are some 30,000 books published each year and but two or three are worth reading. Only a juvenile thinks that in books the latest is the best -- which is what bestseller lists try to stampede the public into believing. As a wise man said, "Every time they print a new book, I read an old book."
The Rev. Rawley Myers
St. Mary's Cathedral
Colorado Springs, Colorado
That Playboy Philosophy
In your April editorial opposing the Gulf War, you appeared to be claiming a national monopoly that your people don't really deserve: "The all-American Playboy philosophy provides the rationale for our war-making: Don't let morals prevent you from getting your kicks! Impatience is now our national vice and instant gratification our national imperative."
It isn't only you Americans! Playboy originated in your country, of course, but it sells everywhere, and its "philosophy" is -- I suppose -- more assiduously practiced worldwide than any other. Here in England, no less than in the U.S., there were millions for whom the Gulf War constituted a truly orgasmic delight -- especially since it happened a long way off, didn't last very long, and didn't cause many casualties (among our own people, that is).
True, the psychology of the matter was different here. We didn't have any Vietnam-related ghosts that needed to be exorcised, and nobody made jokes about how John Major needed to demonstrate his and the country's masculinity. (Wisecracks of that sort are seldom made, except at the Americans' expense.) But think of the background passions, the imperial echoes! That whole region is suffused with nostalgic memories of British domination. Remember that Kuwait and Iraq and Jordan -- like various other such "nations" -- are recent and artificial constructs of British imperial policy: Remember Lawrence of Arabia, Glubb Pasha and the Arab Legion, the Iraq Levies. Remember "Control without Occupation." (That was our policy of supporting a puppet regime in Baghdad by sending the Royal Air Force to bomb the villages and encampments of Iraqi dissidents.)
There's nothing specifically American about the instant gratification of national lust and to Hell with morality. In our smaller way -- it used to be a very big way -- we Limeys also do our best.
Greed? What Greed?
Regarding the article by Charles K. Wilber in the May issue ("The Survival of the Fittest at Home & Abroad"), how many more times are we going to be forced to listen to left-wing nonsense about the decade of the 1980s? The Left's "decade of greed" myth has been debunked so many times in recent months that the only place it still lives is in the hearts of true believers who feel that capitalism is an evil that we must do something about. Charles Wilber is one of these people.
The intent of the article is to create guilt. We are supposed to feel evil because we live in a society where the distribution of wealth is not controlled by the government. Wilber never comes right out and says this, and there is an excellent reason why he doesn't: We already know about the type of government that attempts to control the distribution of wealth, and we know that it is evil.
What is this article doing in a magazine concerned with religion? Wilber never once mentions the effect of Christian virtue on the soul of a nation, never once indicates that in a society where people are encouraged to do the best they can the Holy Spirit must reign in the hearts of men to check their desires and passions. It is the belief in Jesus Christ that causes men to have compassion for others, not government. It is amazing that after all we now know about socialism and Communism there are still learned persons who pine after the clutches of totalitarianism.
Perry G. Cunningham